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Sarah Carr Education. (2013) 'Hope Against Hope Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America's Children.'

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

New Orleans 6, Katrina 4, Mary 2, Us 2, Perry Walker 1, Laurie Ayden 1, Mr. Sara Carr 1, Jerald Stewart 1, Sara Carr 1, Orleans 1, Jerald 1, Sara 1, Jerald Lynn 1, Katherine Blue 1, Alex Popowich 1, Douglas 1, Quinnell 1, Strattor 1, America 1, Picayune 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Sarah Carr  Education.  (2013) 'Hope Against Hope Three  
   Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America's...  

    March 23, 2013
    3:00 - 3:30pm EDT  

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in forecast, what physics meteorologist and the natural sciences can teach us about economics, physicist explain the ebb and flow of market of economy can relate to science. look for the title in bookstores this coming week and watch for the authors in the near too future on booktv and booktv.org. >> you're watching booktv on c-span2. here's a look at the prime time lineup for tonight. ..
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now author sara carr explores the results of the state legislature's decision shortly after hurricane katrina to re-assign control over the majority of new orleans public schools to the recovery school district, administered by the state. by following a student, teacher, and a principal as they traverse different segments of the education until system. this is a half an hour. >> it's great to see so many people out tonight who do such amazing work for kids in new orleans, and thank you for coming. i'm just going to talk for about 10 or 15 minutes or so and then
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take questions, and there's some people here tonight who are in the book and they might be willing to answer your questions during that session as well if you're interested in hearing what it was like to be part of that process from their van -- vantage point. the other day is was reading a book called "behind the beautiful forever," which tells the story of a group of families living in a mumbai slum, and in her author's note she tries 0 explain why she chose to focus on ordinary people rather than broader policy debates or history, and she wrote something that i think summarizes what i happened to do and hope against hope getter than i ever could. she wrote, when i settle into a place, listening and watching, i don't try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. i just believe that better
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arguments may be even better policies get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives, and i think if there's a single as aspiration that drove me to journalism and educating reporting is that one. sometimes journalism does change policy for the better and very specific and concrete ways but there's something to be said for journalism that permanently complicates or maybe even just momentarily interrupts our understanding of the world we live in, and i can say that all areas and most of the writing that i've done has accomplished that goal out -- it's something to aspire to. before i go any further i want to thank the people who let me write about their lives, particularly jerald stewart and her mother, mary, the principal of walker high school, and aden teller, a teacher and ill strattor, it was not only
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eye-opening to spend time with them but also a lot of fun at times and i feel privileged to have met them. just a brief word about them. people who know mary, know she is always at perry walker high school. you drive by on weekends and her car is in front of the school. you drive by at night and her car is out front. and you drive by on holidays and her car is out front. yet somehow all she does she found time to spend many sunday morning with me, talking about her work in life, and i used to wonder when and how she ever found time to do something just for herself. because she was always so busy doing things for others. i met jerald at the start of their freshman year in high school and she is now more than halfway through her junior year. every so often i would tell her, if there's something that you tell me or i observe in the course of reporting the book that you don't want included, to
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let me know. and there was one time when i repeated that reminder, and she looked at me like i was being naive and said, i don't tell you anything i don't want in the book. [laughter] >> and that was the moment when i knew definitively that she was not only funnier but smarter than i am. and one of the things that struck me about aden was that he was both exceptionally hard on him and exceptionally generous toward other people, and i think that spirit is what makes him such a talented person and teacher. i remember one day when you had a lot going on in this classroom and there was a visitor who was presenting and all of a sudden this e-mail pops up in my in box and it was from ayden and he wanted to make sure i was getting the visitors' permission when i wrote about it. so when dealing with these other responsibilities the thought to reach out and protect this person and make sure that they
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were treated with respect. i didn't know what this book would be when i set out to write it. i just knew that i wanted to do something that would allow me to engage with the issues i had been writing about for more than a decade in greater depth and i knew i wanted the story to be driven by people, although i had no idea initially who those people would be. the first draft of a book proposal focused on writing a history of the douglas high school building in the nine ward up to the present, using the school as a microcosm for discussing the history of city and urban education reform more broadly, and i was encouraged by some colleagues who read early drafts to take a broader approach, and settled on the idea following three different schools. i think the narrative might have been tidier if i had just focused on one school, like douglas, but as most of you know the schools here are so veried
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varied in terms of their progress and success, and i think one setting would have been too limited. i also planned at one point to have whole chapters or sections of the book devoted to detours to other cities, like new york or washington, dc and have sections on president obama or aney duncan, and at one i was presenting to advisers of a fellowship i had, including a writer. alex popowich, and he said he thought that was a stupid idea because people experienced in new orleans were so compelling and interesting on their own. and so i settled on the idea of structuring the book around three schools, with one person preeminent in each. miss laurie ayden and jerald lynn, all of whom i met at different times and in different ways. since writing this book was a journey for me i wanted to talk about some what i learn over the
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course of reporting and writing it. apart from the fact i would make a terrible teacher. the first is that i feel like the extremists and absolutists on both sides of the'm conversation over school reform and other issues dominate the debate, but their voices don't really capture the need or desire of those attending and working in the schools, and i had covered education for long enough when i started working on the book to sense this to some degree. i was really amazed by the extent to which the aspirations and ideals of many families and frontline educators eluded the talking points of those who had the soap box on this issue, and i got frustrated about this and even ang fry at times -- angry at times. i remember having a conversation with a friend who was getting his doctorate in political science and he made the point that at some point an extreme
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backlash is needed to nudge policy or practice in the right direction. i thought that would a good and fair point. but i guess i wish going back to katherine blue's quote that in this country, people's life experiences shaped rhetoric nearly as much as rhetoric shapes their life experiences. and i think journalists have a largely unfulfilled obligation to make this happen. to write, if you follow education policy a little less about the michelle and dianes of the world and a little more about the people growing up and living and working and dreaming in the schools. the second major realization i came to is that too much of the debate about education and education reform is framed in ideological rather than sociology terms. most parents and educate norrors are not debating whether or not charder scoots or good or bad
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oar teach for america are good or bad or teach-under unions are good or bad. why they care of the daily experience of their kids and whether that's a common set of as separations and goals and a shared voice about what education coulds' should be there. was a lot of debate a couple of years ago, for instance, about the future of the colton school building in the nine inch ward were a group of predominantly white parents opposed taking over the building and, i went to one meeting where parent were decrying emphasis on test preparation and lack of diversity, and then i went to another meeting with mostly african-american and they talked about what they liked about the hip approach and these more privileged white parents were trying to take something away they valued. and i feel at it core this disconnect was about sociology and different beliefs and understandings and ideals surrounding all of us,
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surrounding education, all of which has some validity and a long history behind them, but so much of the writing and public discourse surrounding education done really gram with these issues and tensions at all. instead it's obsessed with the admittedly not unimportant but much more abstract ideological battles surrounding such topics as governance and privatization. the third major lesson i learned relates to both book-writing and education, i didn't, as i said, know in a lot of ways what my book would be about when i started writing it because i didn't know how the school year would go for the schools i would be in and for the people i was following, and obviously i knew would it be about people's experiences in new orleans schools after katrina, and i put a lot of thought into making sure i was seeing and learning about a diverse set of experiences. but it wasn't until i was writing the book and well into writing it that i realized how much the book is really about
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school culture. and i tend to be somewhat real relevantist and schools that structure well and those that are up suck viewerred and function well, and you want a mix of approaches because different kids thrive in different environments. but i did come away with the conclusion that it's absolutely vital that parents and staff and student come together around a shared vision of culture. either organically or through the very hard process of mutual dialogue and understanding. and i think the book shows the success that can happen when -- that can occur when that happens and the struggles a school will encounter if it doesn't. and as one example, one of the schools i followed, which struggled quite a bit in its first year, did have this one sort of amazing success on that
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point. the principal early on in the year introduced the students to the wolf fable, and the fable is there are two wolves inside us that are constantly fighting, and one wolf represents greed and anger and the other wolf represents love and humility. and the moral is that the wolf that wins at the end is the one you feed. and that 'really took on a life of its own at this school and among the kids, and students would tell each other to remember to be the good wolf, or to make sure that the go wolf wins in the end. i think at successful schools you have a whole set of shared values and more -- whether it's expressions or as separations. the final big takeaway for me relates to the title of the book itself. and that is that hope isn't free or something shoot be taken for
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granted and that in many ways it's a luxury good, and i think there are real and tangible structural and inequities in american society and cities that have produced the rampant and pernicious income inequality we see today. i'm noting too to imply that inequality is caused by people's emotions or feelings about themselves or by just the deficit of hope. but that said, one of the students who i wrote about was one of the smartest people i had if met and he could not imagine himself ever going to college. and it wasn't that he had some grand plan for his life as an alternative that fascinated him or that he wasn't smart or capable enough, and at one point his sister even offered to give him the money to go. but based on his own life experiences and those of others around him, he just couldn't make that lope of faith. i wrote at one point in the book that even in the most democratic
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societies, the idea of caste can invade the mind and destroys it and when we think about structural inequality we think of its practical implications and also need to think about it psychological implications because to the are less easy to see and ultimately harder and thus more complicated to combat. so, i'll take questions. [applause] >> sarah, thanks. i know you've been covering education for many years. at what stage did this turn to a book for you? or did you come out to katrina thinking of it as a book project? >> i didn't. i moved to new orleans about
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five and a half or six years ago, to work as an education writer at the times picayune, i didn't know i would write a book. and from having talked to other people who had written books, i didn't want to write a book for the sake of writing a book because i got a success of whan at arduous and long process it is. so i wanted to wait until i was a point where i felt driven to do, and i think it came from just like a desire to really kind of grapple with issues in more depth. i had worked at a daily newspaper for seven or eight years when i started writing this book, and you just don't have the space and time to really go into stories and issues in as much depth as you'd like, even at the best of papers. so that motivated me. and then as i said it kind of -- the project evolved over time and didn't end up being what i
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had envisioned it initially. >> good evening. my first experience with a sarah is a student at walker school before i enlisted into the national guard and when i returned from my deployment, she was still there. i guess recording the stories and all the good things that happened at the school. and i have a question. i would just like to say a huge across the board thank you for, one, like, putting -- letting the entire world know that good is happening in this city, and it starts with our children, our educators and all the people who support the positive thing that
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are happening in this community, and i think that your book kind of once again pushed new orleans in the national spotlight and saying, we're struggling here but we're still persevering and we're tenacious and getting through our problems. so, thank you. i don't have a question but i did want to say that. >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you, quinnell, for sharing your story with me, and also i just need to -- the schools were just very open and very gracious with their time over the course of reporting that, but it really would have been impossible without the openness. so i think a real testament to the people working and going to them. [inaudible] >> ask the question at the microphone, please. thank you.
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>> how did you book the schools you were going to -- pick the school you were going to write about? >> i did want a variety. since the charter story is kind of the dominant one in the new orleans landscape, i decided i wanted them to all be charterers put at different points in their development. i didn't want all first-year schools or all five-year schools or all schools in their fifth year, and i wanted ones that a different approach and a different philosophy about teaching and learning and ones with a variety of staffing profiles. and then i was sort of -- i started off, actually spending time in about five or six schools and narrowed it down to three, and i decided in the course of the fourth semester there would be a nice parallelism in having them all
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be high schools and that why i ended 'focusing on three high schools. and there was also just the issue of ones that i had a relationship with and was able to get more access to and had maybe through my work at the picayune done stories on previously. so it was a combination of all those different things. >> anybody have any questions for any of the people who are in the -- oh, yes. >> do you want to come up to the microphone? how howe you doing this morning. i just want to say congratulations to mr. sara
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carr. i know it's a long struggle you went through with the papers. it's a long journey for you. so, don't make this book your last book. continue on. >> thank you. [applause] >> sarah, myself, like a lot of people, thought about right after katrina, that one of the silver lining that might be the reform of education in new orleans. i know you talk about in your book. what do you feel has happened -- what do you feel is the state of education in new orleans at this point? years later. >> there's no easy answer to that. and there are sort of -- i feel like people who sort of make what's happened here out of a complete positive, and others
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who make it out of the complete negative, and i really feel like the truth is in between that and is much more complicated. i feel like there are a tremendous amount of educators working really hard in the schools, and just a huge amount of progress that's been made, and a lot of families that feel like schools are more sort of stable places focused on preparing their kids for college. but that said, i think there's a lot of lingering challenges. i think that kids who are the most challenging, whether or not because they have special needs or a history of behavioral issues in the school or are coming out of alternative settings or incarceration, are still falling through the cracks in a lot of cases and struggling to find schools that will serve them well, and i think there are
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issues of sustainability moving forward and questions of whether or not both on the resource level and a staffing level what has been built over the last several years is sustainable. i also -- you know, i kind of ended this book feeling really optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. i was able to see how transformative a good school could be for kids and even the most challenging kids, and i was able to spend time in some schools doing that work. but i concluded that without kind of broader changes throughout the city and american society, that it's going to be very hard to revitalize the city through the schools alone in the long term and there needs to be much more progress made on all kinds of fronts in the healthcare arena when it comes to criminal justice. recreational opportunities for kids, and that sort of what has
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happened here needs to be assessed in the long term, whether we need to look at whether kids are graduating from college at higher rates and whether or not they're able to come back to new orleans and find safe communities to live in and jobs where they can support their families without having to work 80 hours a week. >> good evening. i'm racquel dylan and i would like to say a special thanks to miss sara and how her heart was -- continue on. [applause] >> thank you. they put up with me for a long time so i'm very grateful to them. they have very busy lives and were very gracious about making time for me again and again so this book would not have been possible without them. >> congratulations, sara.
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-- sarah, and i would challenge you to not consider yourself a teacher or good teacher, because having red the book there are multiple ways to convey ideas and have them installed in our lives, so congratulations. >> thank you. >> and i just want to talk to you a little bit one of the things in the book, around expulsion and suspension and you have paul tuft's book, talking about noncognitive variables and their importance on achievement. can you talk about the role of a curriculum and either in terms of how limited it is here or what it should be in terms of addressing all the needs of a child of significant needs of children. >> sure. i do think the way that the landscape of schools has evolved here over time -- and not really because of anybody's bad
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intentions or deliberate oversight. there's sort of one model of school that is particularly prevalent, and that is a very highly structured environment, this very focused on core subjects and academic remediation and getting kids to the point where they can pass the state standardized tests and good on to college. i think there are a number of schools doing absolutely amazing work, a wonderful job with kids and a number of kids that thrive in those environments. but i feel like unless we have sort of a more diverse kind of ecosystem of different schools and approaches, it's going to be hard work moving forward because there are some kids that just don't thrive in that kind of environment, and there aren't a lot of choices if you don't. i think for a lot of families it's a choice between that model i just described or sort of a school that they really perceive as being sub par or that might
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be slated for closure, they just know isn't going to be there in the long term. so i do hope moving forward there is more of an emphasis on diverse curriculum models and educators with different ideas of what a school can and should be. >> made a comment at the start, you said that you thought you would be a bad teacher, and so -- which made me curious. just why do you think you would be a bad teacher? and second, if there's something that you'd like to teach or you hope to teach with this book, what would that be? >> that's a great question. i meant i'd sort of be a bad teacher in the traditional model. as fun as it is to see all of your out here, i actually do not like presenting in front of large groups of people and that
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so much of what being a teacher in a conventional school is like. i would be, i think, much more successful and be more comfortable working with people one-on-one, and there is some need for that in the schools. but i don't -- i am -- in terms of what i hope the book teaches, i don't have any dilution that -- delusion that people that are adamantly convinced the that charters are great or charters or awful or a specific model, are going to read my book and say i was completely wrong, and it isn't sort of an argument based book in that regard. but i just -- i hope that it helps us understand people's lives a little bit better. and see where they're coming from and how they're their own life histories and experiences shaped what they want out of an education and what they need out
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of an education. so i guess going back to that catherine school quote, i don't know that it will necessarily change policy or should change policy, but i just hoch it -- hope it makes us all understand and think about each other differently. >> thank you very much for coming outs' speaking tonight. you're speaking on two topics that are particularly of interest to me. education and the city of new orleans. i want to ask you this question to summarize this quote, and maybe you can tell me how the three school yours spent time in kind of reef late to this, and you see it as going forward as an ideal. the notion that all children could and should be inventors or their own theories, analyzes evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on this complex world is an ideal with revolutionary implications.